Dick feels like one of those guys in the search-and-rescue clips you see on television, hanging from the line suspended in mid-air with the chopper whirring above. Except it's not a helicopter, it's Superman, and apparently it's much harder to maintain a stationary position when you're one guy—even a super-powered one—with a rope tied around your waist and another guy swinging on that rope.
In order to land directly on the penthouse balcony, Dick needs a carefully calculated trajectory, which would be considerably easier if Clark could hold still.
"Do you have to swing so much?" Clark complains from above. Dick grits his teeth and keeps the rope moving in its ever-widening arc. If he doesn't have enough speed, he won't make the distance. If he doesn't time his release right, he'll end up smacking into the concrete walls above or below the balcony, or the balcony railing. If Clark moves too much in any direction, Dick will probably end up a messy sludge on the sidewalk. His timing has to be perfect.
He wasn't a Flying Grayson for nothing.
Dick forgets about Clark, forgets about everything except where he needs to land. He visualizes it as he uses his legs to put more power into the swing and increase his momentum. He thinks about the dive he needs to make on the upswing, the somersault forward, the tuck between the railing and the roof, the crouched landing. He breathes through the motions, knows every movement his body needs to make. Commits it to memory bone-deep.
"Any time now!" Clark shouts. "I've got company up here. Unhappy, armed company."
"Don't move!" Dick replies, then gives one last kick and lets go, twisting his body through the air as if he were still in the circus. He wishes his parents could see him do this. He thinks they'd be proud. He knows Batman would be, although he'd probably say the risk was unacceptable. But this is what they do.
His landing is more of a slide into the balcony's glass doors than a controlled set-down, but under the circumstances he figures any landing he can walk away from is a good landing. Dick turns on his communicator.
"Loud and clear, Nightwing. Keep your comm open."
He gets to his feet and pushes open the balcony door, stepping into the living room of Luthor's penthouse. It takes him a few seconds to process what he's seeing, and even then, he's not sure what exactly he's supposed to do. He expected Wally to be tied to a chair or under threat somehow, not … whatever the hell's happening on the couch.
"What the fuck is going on here?"
Wally loves old movies. The ones in black-and-white that used to be on Saturday mornings when he was a kid. The ones where it's easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys because their hats are different colors, and where the cavalry always arrives just in the nick of time.
Well, today the cavalry is really fucking late.
"Lex, you need to stop," Wally breathes out, figuring that once the President's had his tongue in your mouth and his hand down your pants, you can call him by his first name.
"You don't want me to stop," Luthor says, pressing Wally into the couch. His eyes are wild, pupils blown wide, and his mouth seems to be everywhere at once. Neck, lips, throat, chest. Wally can't remember where all the bruises and scratches have come from, but Luthor seems determined to mark him.
Wally's one big pin-cushion of sensation, and he's having a hard time concentrating on pushing Luthor back. Every few seconds, he forgets he's supposed to be resisting, then he opens his eyes and right, he's been drugged. They both have. He has to fight this or he's going to feel like a horrible person tomorrow, no matter how good it feels right now. Wally knows it's the drugs in their systems, but knowing the cause and suppressing the impulses are two different things.
"Get off, get off," he says, trying to push himself backwards up the couch, but all it does is slide his pants further down his hips, which Luthor seems to appreciate. Fuck. Not what Wally intended at all.
"I'm trying to get you off," Luthor says huskily, and whoa, that's a hand cupping …
"What the fuck is going on here?" a familiar voice yells, and Wally's never been so grateful to see Dick Grayson in his entire life.
Apparently, these days the cavalry wears black Kevlar and a domino mask, riding in on … well, Wally's not sure how the hell Dick got there, but he honestly doesn't care. Hooray for the cavalry.
Roy leaves the Hummer in the driveway of Wayne Manor, and helps Oliver inside. Ollie's starting to crash after the adrenaline hit, and Bruce has offered to let them stay overnight. Considering the amount of trouble the two of them have been this evening, Roy's tempted to dump them and go home, but he wants to see if he can get anything else out of Tim, and he won't be able to relax until he knows Dick and Wally are okay.
Alfred's just as Roy remembers him, and that's comforting. Somehow Alfred manages to remain a stable point in the Bat-family's chaotic lives, and Roy accepts a hot drink and the offer of a shower. He's pretty sure he smells like monkeys and Alfred's too polite to say so.
By the time Roy showers and changes back into regular clothes, Oliver's been put to bed. (Alfred assures him Oliver is resting comfortably, which Roy translates to mean Bruce dumped Ollie on a bed and left Alfred to the business of removing boots and masks and anything else that might hinder sleep.) Bruce and Tim seem to have disappeared into the Cave, and Roy hasn't been a frequent enough visitor to feel he can invite himself to the party. If Dick were here it might be different, but he's not.
Which is how Roy ends up in the kitchen with Alfred, sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows and eating hero sandwiches, showing Alfred pictures of his daughter. He's had worse endings to craptastic days.
It takes Dick longer than it probably should to process what he's seeing, but he figures he can be forgiven for yelling under the circumstances. The last thing he was expecting to see when he swooped in to rescue Wally was Luthor and Wally, half-naked on the couch.
"Don't just stand there, you idiot!" Wally manages when his mouth's free from Luthor's, and it kicks Dick into motion.
Dick tries pulling Luthor away with a hand on his shoulder, but he's shrugged off. Now he can see the look in Wally's eyes: relief, mixed with fear, and something's making his pupils ridiculously wide. Drugged. Dick feels a wave of anger hit him, and this time when he grabs Luthor, he does it with hands clasped around the man's torso, dragging him forcibly off the couch. Luthor roars at the interruption, breaking Dick's hold as soon as he finds his feet. Without turning, he rams an elbow into Dick's midsection, knocking him momentarily off-balance.
Wally seems disoriented, or at least that's what Dick's going to assume since Wally isn't doing a damn thing to move, or even cover himself. Stretched back on the couch, pants open and down around his hips, he looks like a really unsettling Calvin Klein ad. There's a patchwork of scratches and bite marks on Wally's skin, bluish hickeys that give a pretty good map of where Luthor's been putting his mouth. Jesus, Bruce is going to—
Luthor launches himself back toward Wally, but Dick sweeps his legs from underneath him. The President goes down hard, cursing, and Dick takes advantage of Luthor on his stomach to put a knee to his back and hold him down while he drags out a zip-tie and secures Luthor's hands.
"A little help here, Wally!"
"That uniform fits you really well," Wally says sincerely.
Dick glances up and follows Wally's sightline, then snaps his fingers at him. "Hey, lover boy! Focus! I need you to tell me what the hell's going on!"
Wally blinks hard, like he's honestly trying to get it together, and Dick reminds himself Superman chose him because he thought Dick could keep a level head. He's not going to let Superman down.
"Somebody roofied us."
"Us?" Dick repeats.
He gets up, tipping Luthor onto his back. Luthor's got a collection of scratches and bites of his own, and Dick's not going to think about who put them there. The President's grinning maniacally, and his eyes are full of pupil. The sweat's practically dripping off his face, which is the colour of over-ripe strawberries. He looks like one of those cartoon characters who's about to shoot steam out of his ears.
"Lex had a second drink. I think he overdosed."
"Shit," Dick says, ignoring how Wally's now on a first name basis with the President, and presses two fingers against Luthor's carotid artery. His pulse is racing too fast to count, and Luthor's got flecks of white spittle around the edges of his mouth. Definitely not a good sign.
Dick leaves Luthor to do the same to Wally, grateful his pulse is nowhere near as fast. However, it's more than a little disconcerting the way Wally tips his head back, closes his eyes, and sighs when Dick touches him.
"Hey, hands off!" Luthor says, struggling to his knees. It's awkward with his hands secured behind his back, but he's determined.
Dick tries to be reassuring, but mediation is not his strong suit. The only reason he hasn't knocked Luthor out is because he can't be sure what effect it would have on him with an unknown substance in his system. Plus, there's the small detail of Luthor's security people. They're going to storm through the door eventually, no matter what their original orders were, and it's going to look bad if the President's tied up and unconscious. Dick really doesn't want to spend the rest of his life in Guantanamo.
"You've been—" Dick searches for an appropriate word. "—poisoned, Mr. President. We need to get you to a hospital."
Luthor's on his feet again, although he's none-too-steady. "You want him for yourself!"
"No, I really don't." Dick doesn't have to fake the horrified tone. A few seconds later, he becomes aware of deft hands sliding up his thighs and over his …
"Whoa! Hands, Wally!"
"Have I ever told you you've got a great—"
Every surge of emotion seems to hit Luthor like a train, and right now homicide looks to be driving the engine. Dick never hears what he's got that's so great because Luthor's barreling toward him, head down. He readies for the impact, letting momentum roll them over the back of the couch where they crash to the hardwood floor. Wally's head pops up like Kilroy looking down at them.
Dick points an angry finger at him and circumvents anything Wally might have to say, by yelling, "Shut the hell up! You're not helping."
Wally makes a face like a kicked puppy and slides back down his side of the couch. Dick feels like a complete heel, but he can't deal with much more of this. Luthor's about to stroke out, he can hear the security people using a blowtorch on the door, and Dick's only backup can't get near enough to do any good.
"Mr. President, listen to me. If we don't get you to a hospital, you're going to die. Superman is standing by, but he can't help unless he can land on that balcony. How do I turn off the power disruptor? How do I shield the Kryptonite?"
Luthor smiles. There's blood on his teeth from where he seems to have bitten his tongue, and Dick thinks maybe he'll have to sling Luthor on his back and chance going over the balcony when Wally stumbles into view, pushing Dick aside.
"You don't want to die, Lex," Wally says, pulling him to his feet. He puts his hands on Luthor's face and looks straight into his eyes. "You don't want me to die either, do you?"
Luthor makes a sound like a hurt animal and leans his head against Wally's bare shoulder.
"Tell him what he needs to know."
There's mumbling against Wally's chest, but it's enough for Dick to get the gist of it. He rushes to the control panel, popping it open.
"Clark Kent is Superman, all one word, lower case."
Dick ignores the sick feeling that comes with absolute proof Luthor knows Superman's secret identity, which probably means he knows theirs as well. He punches in the password, and the system gives him a complete shutdown option.
"Will that make it safe for Superman to land?"
"He says 'yes.'"
Wally's grabbed a slice of wall and is propping Luthor up, but the President seems to be slipping toward comatose. Of course, it hasn't stopped him from insinuating himself into Wally's space as closely as he can even with his hands tied. Dick has to fight the urge to walk over there and haul Luthor away, but Wally's a big boy. He knows what's at stake here.
Dick gives the all clear and within seconds Superman is touching down on the balcony. The shouting outside the door seems to have stopped as well. Dick fills a sample vial with liquor from the open decanter.
"I told the President's people it was a medical emergency," Clark says, even as he's lifting a barely conscious Luthor into his arms. Dick had almost forgotten he'd left his comm line open for Clark. That must have been … interesting. "The paranoid bastard's got his security set so nobody can get in without his personal authorization, even his own people."
Clark glances over to where Wally's sitting against the wall with his head on bent knees. "Should I be taking both of them?"
"No, it'll raise too many questions. I think Wally will be fine once his metabolism revs up to normal. Give the doctors this." Dick presses a vial into Superman's hand. "Accidental overdose."
"I'll be back for you two as soon as I can." Clark doesn't waste any time before disappearing in the direction of Metropolis General.
That just leaves Dick and Wally. Alone.
Terrific, Dick thinks.
Wally has never wanted a hole to open up and swallow him as much as he does at this moment in time.
Dick comes over to where Wally's sitting, and drops down beside him, matching his position against the wall. He's still got his uniform and mask on, and somehow that makes this worse, not better. As if they're strangers instead of friends.
"Do you have your abilities back?" Dick asks. Wally's been so wound up about the other stuff, he almost forgot his powers were off-line. He reaches for the speedforce, but it's too far away. The air around him stirs a little, but that's it.
"Not really. It's not the same as it is for Superman." The genuine concern on Dick's face makes Wally want to explain. "Think of it like trying to start a cold engine. The components are all there, but it takes time to warm up to a level where the engine's going to turn over properly, right? I can feel the connection to the speedforce, but it's weak. I doubt I could run any faster than you right now."
Wally knows Dick's trying, but the joke falls flat. The silence that settles over them feels heavy. Uncomfortable. There are so many things Wally needs to say right now, and he can't find the words for even one of them. All he wants to do is hide somewhere and not come out until everyone's forgotten this mess. As if that's ever going to happen.
Lost in his thoughts, Wally barely hears the soft sound of his name.
"Could you move your hand?"
Wally looks down at the hand that's gently kneading Dick's thigh, and pulls back as if he's been burned.
"Fuck! I'm sorry." He jumps to his feet, feeling ungainly and slow, but he needs to put some distance between himself and Dick. "You should get out of here. I can wait for Superman by myself."
"I'm not leaving you here." It doesn't matter Dick's wearing the Nightwing mask, Wally can tell he's rolling his eyes. "And stop apologizing. You didn't do this. It isn't your fault."
"Doesn't matter. I don't even realize I'm doing it." Wally walks around to the front of the couch, snatching his shirt off the floor and pulling it over his head. "Obviously I can't be trusted around anybody until the drug's out of my system, and who knows how long that will take?"
"It takes however long it takes," Dick says stubbornly, not budging. "I'm not leaving."
Wally needs to do something to get his mind off the fact he's been hard for what feels like forever, so he starts picking up around the living room. Luthor's white dress shirt is missing a few buttons. Wally starts scanning for them.
"Look, Dick, it's not as if I'm bleeding out and asking to be left behind to make a desperate last stand." He plucks a pearl button from under the coffee table. One down, two to go. "I just don't want to feel worse tomorrow than I already do, and if I keep groping my straight best friend, I'm going to feel like shit, okay?"
"Wally, it's okay."
"No, it's not." Button number two is way over by the windows, and Wally doesn't have any idea how it got there. He can't see the third button anywhere. "At least you should tie my hands or something."
"And interrupt the Great Button Hunt? Uh-uh."
Wally's on his knees peering under the couch when Dick sits down, and puts a hand on Wally's shoulder. It's like a slow electric shock coursing through his body and settling in his groin. All he wants to do is gravitate toward that perfect, warm body that's promising—
"Okay," Dick says quietly, from far too close. "I'm beginning to understand the scope of the problem."
"Finally!" Wally gives a little huff, his breath disturbing Dick's dark hair. He smells fantastic—like chocolate and cinnamon, like campfire smoke and clean sweat. He really does have an incredibly perfect … grip. The firm touch edges toward painful as it finds the pressure point in his neck, and Wally feels the ache of loss as Dick gently extricates himself from Wally's hold.
"Sorry," Wally whispers, keeping his eyes closed. "You can punch me, you know. Under the circumstances, I think you're justified, and it would solve the immediate problem."
"That was completely my fault." Dick doesn't let up the amount of pressure, and Wally finds it a little easier to focus through the pain. "I didn't realize …"
"Oh, come on," Wally teases, still not looking at Dick. "You know you're ridiculously attractive, Wonder Boy, even if you're not my type. Not that it matters. Right now everyone and everything is my type. I could probably make out with Luthor's rubber plant over there and be blissfully happy."
"TMI, Wally," Dick snorts, and it breaks some of the tension. Dick presses the last pearl button into Wally's hand before releasing his hold and moving away. Wally stays exactly where he is, feeling the hard edge of the button digging into his palm.
"I'm going to call Superman and tell him to speed it up."
"Yeah," Wally agrees, willing himself not to follow Dick. "I think that's a good idea."
Roy eventually gives up. It's clear Bruce and Tim aren't going to be making an appearance any time soon, if they're even still around. They could've left on patrol for all Roy knows.
Alfred has fed him, given him overnight necessities like a toothbrush and floss—yeah, Roy knows exactly who's responsible for Dick's perfect cavity-free smile—and shown him to a room with fresh-smelling sheets on the bed. He's checked in with his family, so now there's nothing left to do except wait for Dick to come home or try to catch some sleep.
Of course, it would also be the perfect opportunity to shave half of Ollie's moustache—and it would serve him right—but somehow Roy's not feeling it. It's a sad day when he'd rather go to bed than prank someone. This is probably what getting old feels like.
When he comes out of the bathroom, something's changed. Roy doesn't know what exactly, but he's survived this long by trusting his instincts. He reaches a hand toward his bow.
"Sorry," Tim says from the shadows near the window. Now that Roy takes a second look, the kid's sitting in the wing chair with his feet pulled under him. He's traded the uniform for jeans and a black hoodie. "It's just me."
Roy flops across the bed, landing on his stomach, head pointed in Tim's general direction.
"Can you tell me anything, or are you just here to make sure I flossed?"
Tim laughs. "Alfred's awesome, isn't he?"
"Well, I'm not here for Bruce's warm hospitality."
Roy isn't certain, but he thinks Tim's frowning. Robins. Their loyalty is maddening. Roy and Oliver never had that kind of relationship. Not on their best day.
"Dick's not back yet."
"Has he checked in at least?"
Roy doesn't know Tim well enough to be able to tell if he's worried or not. He seems calm, but Roy remembers how Dick could be tossing out punchlines and be a wreck inside.
"Gone to bed."
Roy blinks in surprise. "What happened to 'crime never sleeps?'"
"Crime fighters have to. Especially when they're really hung over." Tim shrugs. "He said he was sure Dick could handle it."
"He said he was sure Dick could handle it—have you checked to see if he's really Batman?" Roy doesn't mean to sound skeptical, but Batman isn't exactly generous with praise. "Seriously, Superman scooped up Nightwing in the middle of a fight to deal with a distress signal from The Flash—and let's not forget how no one wants to tell Bats the emergency involves Wally. Dick hasn't checked in, but Batman's gone to bed. What's wrong with this picture?"
"Things have been weird lately. You have no idea."
"Then start talking." Roy waves away the grimace on Tim's face. "I'll take the flak for it with Bats. You can tell him I tortured it out of you."
Tim rolls his eyes. "It's not that simple. I can't just—"
"Tim, one of the reasons I started working alone was because I got more honest information out of monologuing villains than I did from my partner or my team. Dick and Wally are pretty much the only people who have always been there for me, even when being there meant they got treated like shit. If they're in any kind of trouble, I want to help."
Tim scrubs a hand through his dark hair, making it stand on end. For once, he looks like the sixteen year old he is.
"By the time I explain—"
"Come on then." Roy rolls off the bed. He grabs his jacket, his bow, and his quiver. Tim slides out of the chair with the reluctance of a kid who knows he's going to be in huge trouble tomorrow. "You can explain on the way."
"We're going to Metropolis?" Tim's voice is almost a whisper as they slip down the stairs.
"If that's where Dick and Wally are, then yes. I assume you know how to fly one of those Bat-plane thingies?" Roy says.
The look of unrestrained glee on Tim's face is totally worth whatever Batman is going to do to Roy for turning Robin into a Bat-plane stealing delinquent. Totally worth it.
Dick looks at where Wally's leaning, practically vibrating out of his skin, and wishes there were something he could do. Even a casual, platonic touch seems to help—to a point—but it pretty quickly deteriorates from "hey, buddy" to "hey, baby," and Dick's already had to practice his contortionist skills to avoid things becoming more awkward. Dick hadn't realized awkward is a sliding scale from mildly embarrassing to can't-look-your-best-friend-in-the-eye-possibly-ever-again.
"Wally, try to relax."
"Easy for you to say. You're not the one whose balls are about to file a formal request for a color change."
Dick feels bad about grinning, but he can't help it. Wally's always had the ability to crack him up even when things are at their worst.
"Superman will be back soon." Dick's surprised when that elicits a moan from Wally. "That wasn't supposed to be a turn on."
"Everything's a turn on. My own goddamn zipper is an erotic menace. All I want to do is come my brains out." Wally bangs his head against the wall. "I hate my life."
"Look, I don't want to talk about this any more than you do, but it seems to me there's an obvious solution you're ignoring. Once Superman gets back, he can drop you in Gotham, and me somewhere far away from you and Bruce." Dick digs around for his phone. "Jesus, this is stupid. Why don't I just call Bruce—"
"No, you can't!" Wally protests. "I can't see him like this."
"Why not?" Dick is pretty sure he sounds about as frustrated as Wally feels. "The two of you are … you know."
Wally stares at him. "Dick Grayson, I have heard you say some of the filthiest things imaginable without batting an eye. How is it you can't seem to verbalize the idea of Bruce having sex?"
Dick cringes. "I don't know. Bruce is the closest thing I've had to a parent since I was eight. Nobody likes to think about their parents having … relations."
"Relations!" Wally snorts with laughter that quickly shifts to a painful sounding moan. "Oh, don't make me laugh. Fuck!"
"So, what's the problem with going to Gotham? Simple solution."
"Wrong. Because as much as I would give anything right now to be having all kinds of mind-blowing sex with Bruce—"
Dick really wants to put his hands over his ears, but he won't give Wally the satisfaction.
"—I'm almost positive he won't have sex with me like this."
"I know I'm going to regret asking this, but why not?"
"He'll take one look at me, know I'm loopy on something, and stay twenty feet away until a blood test can prove I'm capable of making an informed decision."
Dick sighs because he knows Wally's right. Bruce has always been big on consent issues. Dealing with Scarecrow's fear gas, Ivy's pheromones, memory-altering psychics, magic, and all manner of things that can mess with your mind have only made Bruce more adamant on the subject.
"He wouldn't take the chance it might not be what you really want."
"That's what I thought," Wally agrees. "There hasn't been a chance to have the 'if I'm ever hopped up on drugs and have to fuck or die, I'm fine with you ravaging me' talk, so I'm without a designated ravager."
"I'm kind of sad I disabled all the recording equipment in here."
"I'm glad my misery is so entertaining." Wally tries to glare at him, but it comes off more like really intense bedroom eyes, which Dick ignores. "So, you see why I can't go back to Gotham."
"You could still—"
Wally's already shaking his head. "Nope, that would be worse. It would be like sitting in front of a hot fudge and banana sundae and being told you can't eat it. It would be torture, and I'm not sure I can handle upping the ante in the sexual frustration sweepstakes without giving myself an aneurysm."
"Okay," Dick says, feeling stupid they didn't think of it sooner. "Then go jerk off. It'll probably help, at least a little. I'll put some music on."
Wally starts laughing again. "Ah, that old classic, Music to Masturbate By."
Dick leaps to his feet. "Music so I don't have to listen to you! To give you some privacy. For fuck's sake, Wally, I'm trying to help, but you're not making it easy."
"I know, I know. I'm sorry." Wally sounds out of breath, and he's flushed. Dick wonders if he should check his pulse again, but touching seems to be a pretty direct route to Awkward-ville. "I already thought of that, but honestly, I'm not keen on doing anything that might leave my genetic material in Luthor's apartment. Isn't that how we got Superboy?"
Not quite, but close enough, Dick thinks. He cuts Wally off before the conversation can degenerate further.
"Use a condom. I know it's not ideal, but it would at least keep things … contained."
"I'm flattered you think I have enough control to put one on without—"
"Enough. I get it." Dick scowls at him because Wally keeps taking his perfectly sensible suggestions and coming up with reasons why they won't work. It's annoying. Wally's obviously been spending too much time with Batman. "Okay, so no jerking off in Luthor's apartment, but there must be something we can do."
"I get the feeling I missed something important, but I'm not sure I want to know," Superman says as he comes into the living room from the balcony.
Wally doubles over with laughter that sounds mildly pornographic, and Dick thinks from now on hitting people is going to be his first response in these situations. No more trying to work things out with talking. He should've punched Wally when it was on offer; now, he'll just look petty if he hauls off and decks him.
"Also," Superman continues, "there's a vaguely bat-shaped black plane about half a minute out from here in case anyone cares."
Dick glances at his watch, amazed how much time has slipped away unnoticed; shit, he should've checked in ages ago. He hears the familiar low hum of the plane settling into hover mode.
Wally's laughter cuts off abruptly. "No, no, no, no! I can't see him like this. I won' be able to—and he'll have to—Dick?"
"I'll talk to him," Dick says. "Stay here."
"Wait! Maybe it'll be okay." Wally sounds desperate for that to be true. "Informed consent. I can do that."
Dick steps in close, not surprised when Wally's arms automatically snake around his waist. God knows what Superman's going to think—Luthor was unconscious when Clark took him away, so Dick isn't sure if Supes is fully aware of the problem—but Dick doesn't really care. He whispers directly into Wally's ear.
"Will you have sex with me? Right now?"
"Absolutely," is Wally's breathless reply, hands already scrambling for the uniform seams.
Dick takes a step back, catching Wally's searching hands in his own. He sees the moment Wally realizes what's happening, the warring emotions of shame and desire on his face.
"That was a dirty trick." Wally starts to turn away, and if his powers were back, he'd already be running.
"Hey," Dick says, not letting him go. "You're my best friend, but I know you don't really want to sleep with me. I think it's safe to assume Informed Consent has left the building."
"Informed Consent has packed a bag and jetted off to parts unknown," Wally agrees, dropping his head.
"I'll go talk to Bruce. You stay here and don't get fresh with the rubber plant."
Clark grabs Dick's arm as he heads to the balcony. "Should I—?"
"Stay ten feet away from Wally at all times? Yes. And don't touch him. He's taken about all he can take with the drugs in his system, and his metabolism hasn't kicked in to flush them out yet." He gestures to the balcony. "You might want to call Luthor's people and ask them nicely to ignore the plane hovering in restricted air space."
"Got it," Clark says, pulling a phone from … somewhere. "By the way, Luthor's still unconscious, but stable. The doctors think it was a combination of something like Rohypnol, Viagra, Ecstasy, and a couple of other things that increase arousal and decrease inhibitions. Tox screen's being rushed."
Dick sees Wally's head swing up at the list of drugs. "Did you hear all that, Wal? Somebody was planning a party and forgot to invite Informed Consent."
"Bastards," Wally says, eyes closed. "Informed Consent is the life of any party."
"Preaching to the choir, brother," Dick tosses over his shoulder, striding for the balcony.
He can see the tinted canopy on the plane, but can't make out who's inside. He hopes to God Bruce didn't decide to bring Tim with him. That's all they need.
Nightwing is standing on the balcony of Luthor's penthouse, and he doesn't look happy. Roy can tell. Not only is Dick doing the hands-on-his-hips stance, he's actively frowning. Dick is generally an easy-going guy, and it's hard to bring him down. Frowning isn't a good sign.
Roy wouldn't go so far as to use the term "metrosexual," but Dick's been known to pay attention to how he looks. Roy travels with a bar of soap and a razor; Dick travels with a beauty salon. Roy's caught him tweezing out a single grey hair with the same attention he gives to defusing bombs. He's a man who's likely to be concerned about frown lines in his future.
Frowning like that, where there are actual furrows in Dick's brow, is a really bad sign.
"He looks mad," Tim says, setting the plane's controls to keep them hovering near the balcony. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea."
"It'll be fine, kid." Roy tries to sound reassuring, but Dick does look kind of like he's mad. Usually Dick only gets visibly mad at Bruce. "Hey, maybe he thinks we're Batman checking up on him. Pop the hood, so he can see it's us."
"Pop the hood?"
"Release the canopy. Whatever."
"It slides," Tim says, reaching up to unlatch the locks holding the canopy in place. "Which you would know if you'd listened during the safety briefing."
Roy rolls his eyes. The Bat-family is all the same. They may not be related by blood, but man, they are scarily alike in some ways. Tim had given him an honest-to-God "in case of emergency" briefing before they took off, including where the fire extinguisher is located and how to contact air traffic control.
Roy gives the canopy a solid shove backward, exposing them to the night air.
"Hey, buddy, we were getting worried!" Roy tries for jovial, but the instant the words leave his lips, he can tell it's the wrong approach. Dick's pretty near the end of his rope, and Roy apparently just greased the rest of it.
"What the hell do the two of you think you're doing?"
Tim's busy fastening a domino mask to his face, and Roy realizes they didn't think this through. At all. He opens his mouth to explain, but Dick shakes his head savagely, as Tim scrambles over the side and drops neatly onto the balcony in front of Dick.
"Never mind. I don't want to hear it." Dick's voice is a hoarse whisper-shout. "You're out joy-riding in a highly recognizable, multi-million dollar plane in street clothes and without masks. Do you have any idea how many security cameras are focused on this building?"
"I turned on the short-range jammer," Tim says, petulantly, like a drowning man insisting he can swim when he's going down for the third time. "We should be—"
"That's not the point!" Dick's furious, but it's obvious he's trying to keep his voice down. "This is the Presidential residence. Theoretically, you shouldn't even be able to get this close, except everything's already gone to hell tonight, so Luthor's people are cutting us a little slack. Superman is on the phone right now assuring them you're not a threat to national security."
"You didn't check in!" Tim says, a note of real distress in his voice. He's still a few inches shorter than Dick, and not filled out as much, but with the dark hair, strong jaw, and angry blue eyes they could easily be brothers. "You didn't check in, Batman went to bed, and I didn't know what to do!"
"Timothy." The fact Dick's using real names tells Roy any relevant recording equipment in the area was disabled long before they got here.
"You didn't check in. Dick."
Oddly enough, the insult makes Dick's features lose some of their hard edge, frown lines dissolving, and when he speaks his voice is fond.
"I'm sorry I worried you, but in the future, whatever happens, don't go to Roy for advice, okay? Next time, how about picking up the phone?"
Huh. They could've phoned. High-tech gadgets up the yin-yang, and it didn't occur to either of them to call or text. Some days Roy's not certain technology's actually helping them win the efficiency game.
Tim ducks his head, and Dick takes the opportunity to mess up the kid's hair even more. Roy kind of hopes they've forgotten all about him, but no such luck.
"And you." Dick points a finger at him, his other arm draped loosely around Tim's neck. "What's your excuse? You, at least, should know better."
"You didn't check in," Roy tries, figuring it worked for Tim. "I was worried."
Dick raises a cynical eyebrow, so Roy changes tactics. The best defense is a good offense and all that.
"Where's Wally? Is he okay? And when the hell did everyone start hanging out at Luthor's penthouse? Last I checked he wasn't exactly on the side of the angels. All I got from little bro there is that everyone's gone loco trying to make sure Wally doesn't die and bring about some sort of Justice Lord inspired apocalypse."
Dick makes a face and rubs at his temple with two fingers. Tension headache, Roy's willing to bet. He's seen Bruce do the exact same thing, except Bruce usually follows it up with a glare and storming out without a word. Dick's much more likely to at least try to explain what the hell's going on because even after Tim's "explanation" Roy still doesn't have a fucking clue.
Tim's stab at filling in the blanks had as many holes as Swiss cheese. Roy doesn't think the kid was trying to be difficult—it's just that the Bat-family has more secrets than the Illuminati, and Tim's still a baby Robin. Half the time Dick complains he doesn't know what's going on with Bruce, so it's unlikely Tim knows either.
Just then Superman steps outside. He looks kind of stunned, and he's rubbing at his hip. "Somebody's really antsy to get out of here, and I think his speed's coming back."
"Fantastic," Dick says unenthusiastically.
"At least his metabolism should be picking up," Superman points out. None of this helps clear things up for Roy at all. "The Press will have definitely gotten wind of Luthor's hospitalization by now, so we all need to be somewhere else. Lois will kill me if I don't give her a heads-up. Can I drop anyone off? I'm pretty sure that thing won't fit four of you."
"If you can take Tim and Roy back to Gotham, I'll take the plane and Wally to Central City."
"Hey," Roy protests from his seat in the plane. "I want to know what's going on. Wally's my friend, too, and if he needs help, I'm staying." He eyes Superman warily. "I'm not going to be picked up by the scruff like a kitten and hauled back to Gotham. I'll go with Dick and Wally."
"That's going to be tight." Superman's eyeing the bat-plane skeptically. "That might not be such a good idea."
"We'll manage. We've survived close quarters before."
"Well, if that's what he wants," Dick says, lips turning up at the end in the barest hint of a smile. "I'm sure Wally won't mind."
Roy's got a sudden sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. The kind that says he's going to regret this, although he doesn't know why. Superman shakes his head sympathetically, before slipping an arm around Tim's waist and lifting him into the sky. Tim waves from up above.
Through the balcony windows, Wally watches Superman and Tim disappear. Thank God. Wally thinks he'd have to gnaw off his own hand if he laid a finger on Tim while he's looped like this. Dick's known him long enough and well enough to forgive a little groping, and even Supes will overlook a run-by ass-pat, but Wally would rather not increase the number of people he's going to owe awkward apologies to tomorrow. He trusts Dick to keep his transgressions from spilling over onto innocents and minors.
Wally's not sure why Roy's sticking around, but it doesn't surprise him. When he digs his heels in, he's as bad as any of the Bats. Wally's stupidly grateful he can avoid having to deal with Bruce for a while longer, but he's not sure Roy Harper is any kind of trade-off.
If Dick's like the brother Wally never had, Roy's more like an annoying first cousin. They're close—no doubt about it, the Titans bonded them right down to their atoms when they were Robin and Kid Flash and Speedy—but Roy's always been easier to deal with at a distance. Wally misses him like crazy when he doesn't see him for a while, and usually wants to punch him in the face about fifteen minutes after they reconnect. It's generally understood the feeling's mutual.
Roy's blunt, opinionated, and there's always a hint of righteous anger simmering below the surface threatening to explode. Wally thinks Roy treads too close to the edge, and worse, he likes it, but he's also doggedly loyal and the first person to admit when he's fucked up, so it's hard to stay mad at him for long. In a fight, there's nobody better to have on your side, and Wally owes his life to Roy a hundred times over.
Dick sticks his head in. "We'll get you home now if you think you'll be okay on your own."
Wally nods. He's planning to take a shower, jerk off about a zillion times, and fall into bed exhausted. He follows Dick up the plane's drop-down ladder, and only has to stop himself from reaching out once. Twice at the most. "I think the worst is over."
"Han Shot First," Roy snorts, reading Wally's t-shirt, and so it begins.
"Did he make fun of my Star Wars shirt?"
"I'm pretty sure he did," Dick confirms, taking the pilot's seat. There's very little room to maneuver, and Wally's got nowhere to go except Roy's lap. He drops down hard.
"Why exactly are you here?" Wally asks, settling as Roy shifts as far to the side as he can. Wally's still basically sitting on Roy's lap, but there's less overall touching going on, which is probably for the best.
"Nice to see you too, buddy. I wanted to see what all the excitement was about."
Wally feels a little bad, but not enough to willingly explain things to Roy, who's always too quick to remind him of things he'd rather forget. Dick pulls the canopy closed, and Wally's forced to slump closer to Roy while Dick goes through the pre-flight checklist.
"No excitement, just a misunderstanding," Wally says, trying not to wiggle. His skin is over-sensitive, and every breath against his neck is torture. "Could you maybe breathe in a different direction?"
"You saying I've got bad breath?" Roy asks, expelling as much breath as possible while he does it. Wally bunches up his shoulders like a turtle trying to hide.
"Yes. It could be your superpower. Breath of Doom."
"Fuck you," Roy says, but turns away. A little.
"Dick, let's go. Please," Wally pleads. "And Roy? Whatever happens, it's not you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Here we go, guys. Hang on to something, Wally, since you're not belted in. I'll try to keep it gentle."
The engine roars to life. Dick executes a sharp turn and gets them headed away from Luthor's, while Wally tries not to think about all the places there's suddenly friction he doesn't need. The only thing he's got to hang onto, unfortunately, is Roy, and it doesn't take long for Wally to notice the sudden tension in Roy's body.
"Wally, old buddy," Roy says through gritted teeth. Wally's kind of floating in a warm haze of touch, and trying his best to ignore Roy, who nevertheless makes a comfy chair. "You know I love you, but I'm not as touchy-feely as Dick, so move your hand before I decide to break it."
"Roy," Dick says, glancing over. "Take it easy. It's not his fault."
"Fuck." Wally tries to concentrate on where his hand has wandered. Roy's muscular thigh. It could've been much worse, but he's pretty sure pointing that out won't help the situation. "I'm sorry, but you're the one who insisted on staying and cramming the three of us into a confined space, so some of this is on you."
For the first time, Roy seems to take a good look at Wally. The scrutiny makes Wally's flesh run hot and cold with goose bumps. He tucks his hands under his armpits to stop from touching, and figures Roy can stop him from face-planting into the control panel if it comes to that.
"Shit!" Roy's face transforms into an expression of annoyance. "Why didn't somebody just tell me you got hit with Cupid-shot?"
"Arrow dipped in love potion?"
"It was roofies in the brandy, but the effect's the same," Dick explains.
"And what the fuck were you doing having brandy with President Luthor, anyway?" Roy's fingers stretch the collar of Wally's tee, revealing the bruises there. "Are you and Luthor—?"
Roy's eyebrows climb. "Are you sure? That's some pretty serious—"
"It was—it was the drugs, okay? It wasn't entirely my choice."
"Not entirely, huh? But a little bit? Do you have a crush on Luthor, Wally?"
"No, I don't have a crush on Luthor," Wally says adamantly. He really hates Roy sometimes. "I went over to talk to him about the stupid kryptonite shipments, to try and get him to see reason."
Roy laughs out loud. "So, your plan was to ask him nicely to stop fucking around with stuff that can kill Superman? How well do you know him that you can drop by, and exactly how nicely were you planning to ask?"
"Fuck off." Wally feels the heat of embarrassment staining his cheeks, and he has to bite his tongue to keep from saying something he'll regret. He's not going to drag Roy's history with heroin into this. He's better than that.
"Roy, give it a rest." Dick's cruising toward Central City as fast as he can, but it's nowhere near fast enough for Wally. "Everybody's had a shitty day. Don't make it worse."
"No wonder everyone's trying to keep this from Batman."
Wally closes his eyes and tries to steady his breathing. He wants Bruce so badly, wants those big hands all over his—he looks up as Roy cinches a zip-tie tight around Wally's wrists. Fine. He'd offered to let Dick do the same thing back at Luthor's, but somehow it's more irritating when it's Roy.
"Did Bats say anything to you?"
"About anything," Wally says, aiming for nonchalant and missing by a mile. What he really wants to know is if Bruce said anything about him. Roy's got that sharp-shooter gaze turned on him, and he knows Wally too well.
"Wally, please tell me you're not still nursing a crush on Batman." Roy shakes his head. "Man, it's never gonna happen. You need to move on, accept that."
"It's not a crush."
"You've been fucking pining after him since we were kids. Enough already. Dick's too nice to say it, but it's getting embarrassing. Bruce is never going to look twice in your direction, and believe me, you're better off. Have you forgotten how miserable he made Dick sometimes?"
"Leave me out of this," Dick says, increasing their speed.
Wally can see the lights of Central City drawing close. He wishes it were Gotham; he needs Bruce's reassurance right now that he's not in this alone. Luthor made it clear he thinks Bruce is only with him because saving Wally would mean saving the world, but Wally doesn't want to believe that. He can't.
"It's not a crush, Roy," Wally tries again, a little unsteady. "I'm—I'm in love with Bruce."
"You poor bastard," Roy says, pity in his voice. "You've known him all your adult life, Wally, and he's never shown any interest. Batman's got no room in his life for anything except his own misery and the mission. Dick, tell him."
Dick's concentrating on bringing the plane down on the top of Wally's apartment building without attracting attention.
"I think you should shut up, Roy," Dick says as they hover six feet above the rooftop. In spite of his bound hands, Wally's got the canopy unlatched and open before Dick can even reach for it. Dick slits the zip-tie, then Wally's free to move, and he needs to leave before he punches Roy in the face. He slips over the side of the plane, dropping lightly to the roof.
"Of course, you know there's no way Batman could ever like me, or be attracted to me, or want me just for me. We have absolutely nothing in common," Wally says bitterly. "I know you think I'm a goof, Roy, but you haven't been around much lately. Things are different; I'm different, and I work with Bats a hell of a lot more than either of you these days. You don't know anything about him."
Wally can feel the speedforce licking at his heels. He'll start feeling better soon. More like himself.
"Wally, wait. Do you want me to stay?" Dick asks, standing up in the cockpit. "I can send the plane home on auto-pilot. With its annoying cargo."
He'd give Dick a hug if he could be sure of doing it without a final grope. The fact he knows Dick would forgive him anyway makes him feel better about everything.
"I'll be fine," Wally calls out. "Thanks, Dick. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
Maybe in the cold light of morning, all this will feel less hopeless. Right now, he's having a hard time convincing himself, or anyone else apparently, that Bruce could care about him as more than an asset. The plane lifts off quietly, and Wally's treated to one more glimpse of Roy's pitying face.
The stupid thing is Wally knows Roy means well. It's not the first time he and Roy have gone a round on the subject of Batman as relationship material, and in some respects Roy's not wrong. But Wally knows how hard Bruce has been trying to change. For him. He just hopes it's for the right reasons. He wishes he could be sure.
Wally takes the fire escape down to his apartment, and climbs through the unlocked window. Honestly, he's got nothing anyone would want to steal. The place is dark and quiet—even the Spinster's fast asleep. Wally finds himself wishing Bruce were lurking in the shadows, waiting for him, but there's nothing in the corners except a few cobwebs and his own doubts. Morning will have to be soon enough to face them.
He heads for the shower, stripping quickly, and finally allowing himself the freedom to take care of his rock-hard problem. He comes with Bruce's name on his lips a half-dozen times before he feels the desperate need abate. Finally, he crawls into bed and sleeps, exhausted.
Bruce senses the shift in currents outside his open window and knows his invitation's been received.
"Was there something you wanted?" Clark's hovering, arms crossed, everything about his stance defensive. It forces Bruce to move closer to the window so he can see Clark's face. The cool air rustles the folds of his black robe.
"Tim's home safely?"
"Alfred was giving him something to eat, then sending him to bed. Tim said he had permission to stay overnight at a friend's place, although I suspect this isn't what Tim's dad had in mind."
Bruce lets the comment pass unremarked. He knows Clark's angry with him about the press conference even if the labs weren't any great secret.
"I need to get home, Bruce, so if there's something you want to know …"
"Actually, I wanted to apologize."
Clark rolls his eyes. "I hate it when you do that."
"Yes. It's harder to stay mad at you."
Bruce lets a small smile bend his lips. "Well, by all means…"
"Look, I know it wasn't intentional, that it was all Luthor, but I'd like to think you trust me after all these years."
Bruce sighs. "I do, Clark. I can trust you and still want to be prepared if something beyond your control happens. We made promises, remember?"
"I remember." Clark touches down on the ledge, Bruce stepping aside to let Clark come inside. "Should I assume you know everything that's happened this evening?"
"I get updates from the Watchtower, there's GPS in the plane and every suit, and Wally hasn't taken the tracker out of his boot. He knows it's there," Bruce adds when he sees Clark's raised eyebrow. His voice goes quiet. "Is he okay?"
"He's not hurt," Clark hedges. "He's shaken and embarrassed, but he'll be fine. How is it you're being so calm about this?"
"I'm not. But Wally made it clear if this is going to work he doesn't want me riding to the rescue. I had to trust you and Dick enough to let you handle it, but don't assume it was easy to stay behind."
"Point taken. I should get back, though." Clark turns to leave, rising off the floor.
"One more thing, Clark," Bruce says. "Have you been building up a tolerance to kryptonite by exposing yourself to small amounts?"
The way Clark's body stiffens in mid-air tells Bruce all he needs to know. Clark's never been a particularly good liar as far as Bruce is concerned.
"How did you—Who told you that?"
"Luthor. Is it true?"
Clark settles back down and turns to face Bruce. The flush in his cheeks is obvious.
"Yes, but—it's only meant to give me an edge with the villains."
"Or anyone who might need to take you down. Including me."
"It isn't like that. And how the hell can Luthor possibly know?"
"Where've you been getting your kryptonite from?"
Clark balks. "Well, obviously, I can't—it's been—Lois."
"And she's been getting it from?"
"I don't know," Clark says. "I honestly didn't want to know."
"All the kryptonite that passes through Wayne Enterprises or Queen Industries is laser scribed with a serial number so it can be tracked. We're not missing any."
"Dammit!" Clark doesn't swear often, so Bruce knows he's genuinely upset, and not simply about being found out. "That means it's coming from Luthor somehow."
"I don't think there's any doubt about that."
Clark leans against the window ledge, looking dejected. "I'm sorry. I guess we've both made a mess of things."
"Trust has to go both ways, Clark. If you insist on dosing yourself with kryptonite, at least let me set up a controlled test so it can be done safely and with consistent, measurable results."
"When this is over," Clark agrees. "Let's get through the next few days, okay?"
Bruce nods, watching as Clark rises into the air, becoming lost in the dark sky almost immediately. His JLA text alert chimes, and Bruce grabs the phone. Apparently the bat-plane has reached sub-orbital altitude. He stares at the screen for a moment before deciding he's hung-over enough not to care.
He closes the window, pulls the heavy drapes, and crawls into bed before he can change his mind about staying put. Sleep comes slowly, but when it does, it's deep and dreamless.
About the time they hit cruising altitude, Dick punches Roy in the arm. Hard. It's the least violent thing he can think of at the moment that will still get the point across.
"Ow, what the fuck was that for?"
"What do you think?"
Watching Wally walk away with a hang-dog expression on his face and knowing he couldn't do anything to fix it was awful. Nothing seems right with the world when Wally's unhappy.
"You know I'm right," Roy says. "Batman's never going to—"
"Wally's been seeing Bruce for a couple of months."
Roy's stunned silence gives Dick a mean-spirited sense of satisfaction. Maybe he should've said something when Wally was aboard, but he'd sort of figured if Wally wanted Roy to know, he'd tell him. Except Dick's gone and spilled the beans anyway.
"No fucking way."
"Way," Dick says. "Plus they'd been dancing around each other for months before that. Wally flirting earnestly, and Bruce pretending not to be charmed by it."
"I swear. They're together, and they're good for each other." Most of the time, Dick amends in his head, but Roy doesn't need the footnotes. He hasn't earned them.
"I would never have guessed Bats would go for a guy like Wally." Roy shakes his head. "Maybe it's only a sex thing?"
Dick scowls at him, gripping the controls hard, pushing them higher. "No."
"You sure you're not just trying to pretend Batman doesn't have sex?" Roy's grinning, and Dick really wants to punch him again. Why does everyone insist on talking about Bruce's … relationships with him? He doesn't want to know about it. He doesn't even want to think about it. Especially not when it involves one of his best friends.
"What!" Dick says angrily.
"Is this thing supposed to go sub-orbital?" Roy asks, pointing outside to where the earth is falling rapidly away from them.
"Shit, shit, shit!" Dick's voice is drowned out by the clang of warning bells. "Bruce is going to hear about this."
"Afraid of losing your t.v. privileges?" Roy smirks.
"Shut up. If I get in trouble, you'd better believe I'm taking you down with me."
"We're adults, Dick. What the hell's he going to do? Ground us?"
"Watchtower to Batman. Satellite indicates you've attained sub-orbital altitude. Will you be docking at the station?" J'onn's voice is as clear as if he were in the plane with them.
Dick stares at the communicator, wishing he could pull off Bruce's gruff "Not now!" so he wouldn't have to explain anything to the Martian. No one expects Batman to explain himself. Ever.
Roy rolls his eyes and keys the mic. "J'onn? This is Arsenal. I'm in the Bat-plane with Nightwing. No Batman. Just us."
"He's probably doing a voice authentication and a quick psychic sweep. Think innocent thoughts, Roy."
The grin Roy flashes back can only be called lascivious. Dick can almost see poor J'onn flinching at whatever stray pornography has ambled across Roy's mind.
"Identification confirmed, Arsenal. Do you and Nightwing require assistance?"
"No. We're good. Just testing something on the plane. We'll be heading back to Gotham now. Arsenal out."
Dick breathes out a sigh, turning the plane back toward earth. Roy kicks his feet up on the instrument panel.
"So, Boy Wonder, if we're going to get yelled at, we might as well earn it. How fast can this baby go?"